26 February 2013

South Africa: Sabc?s Failure to Report On Criminal Investigation Is Unacceptable

press release

Today the SABC was supposed to present to Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Communications an update on the Special Investigating Unit's (SIU) criminal investigation into a number of its employees. Their failure to do so is unacceptable and casts doubt on the corporation's commitment to rooting out corruption.

I will therefore submit parliamentary questions to the Minister of Communications in order to obtain critical information on the progress of the investigation, how many employees have been charged to date, and what action has been taken against them.

Late last night committee chairperson Sikhumbuzo Khulwane alerted members that today's presentation by the SABC had been re-scheduled to May because, in a discussion with Thami ka Plaatjie, deputy chairperson of the SABC board, "it became apparent that they were not ready".

The cancellation of the presentation at such a late hour is not only disrespectful to the members of the portfolio committee, but undermines the oversight mandate of the committee and its obligation to represent the interests of the South African people in Parliament.

The last time the committee received a report on the status of the SIU's investigation was March 2012. A follow-up presentation by the SABC board on 18 September 2012 was rejected as being incomprehensible and of no value, as it was little more than a repeat of the March 2013 presentation.

At this stage the committee has no accurate overview of the status of the criminal investigations, which date back to September 2007 and involve 1 465 SABC employees, only nine of whom have been formally charged.

Most of the charges and investigations relate to irregularities and wasteful expenditure within the procurement process, employees or their friends and relatives doing business with the SABC, and payment of ghost workers.

The lack of progress in pursuing corrupt employees - or former employees -cannot only be excused by the lack of resources and direction within the SIU. The SABC Board and executive management are responsible for restoring the credibility of the public broadcaster and sending a clear message that corruption will not be tolerated.

This is critical if the SABC's turnaround strategy is to be successful and a corporate culture of intolerance to corruption is to be taken seriously.

I will therefore submit parliamentary questions to determine the SIU's progress with its investigation. The public has a right to answers before the SABC is granted further funds in the coming budget voting process.

Marian Shinn, DA Spokesperson on Communications

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